Inevitable Thresholds

Adam Barger wrote a post this week in the Educause Review blog entitled, “Educational Technology Leadership and Practice in Higher Education: The Emergence of Threshold Concepts.”  “Threshold” is an interesting term that grabs your attention!  Merriam-Webster defines “threshold” as (a) the plank that lies under a door, (b) the place or point of an ending or a beginning, or (c) the point at which a physiological or psychological effect begins to be produced…a point or value where things become “true.”

In this post, Adam used Meyer and Land’s definition of threshold concepts “…as ideas or ways of thinking that transform the internal view of a subject.”  He noted three such threshold concepts for educational technology:

  1. Higher education is no longer about access to information; rather, it is about access to experiences.
  2. Use of educational technology in most higher education settings is standard practice rather than the exception.
  3. Educational technology both follows and fuels effective pedagogy.

I would agree that these are indeed points that have become true.  It is an easy leap to align them with Kevin Kelly’s 2015 book, The Inevitable, which noted twelve technological  forces (or verbs) that are inevitable for the future:

  1. Becoming: Moving from fixed products to always upgrading services and subscriptions
  2. Cognifying: Making everything much smarter using cheap powerful AI that we get from the cloud
  3. Flowing: Depending on unstoppable streams in real-time for everything
  4. Screening: Turning all surfaces into screens
  5. Accessing: Shifting society from one where we own assets, to one where instead we will have access to services at all times.
  6. Sharing: Collaboration at mass-scale. Kelly writes, “On my imaginary Sharing Meter Index we are still at 2 out of 10.”
  7. Filtering: Harnessing intense personalization in order to anticipate our desires
  8. Remixing: Unbundling existing products into their most primitive parts and then recombine in all possible ways
  9. Interacting: Immersing ourselves inside our computers to maximize their engagement
  10. Tracking: Employing total surveillance for the benefit of citizens and consumers
  11. Questioning: Promoting good questions are far more valuable than good answers
  12. Beginning: Constructing a planetary system connecting all humans and machines into a global matrix

Adam noted that higher education is no longer about access to information, but rather it is about access to experiences.  Jeff Nugent, Bud Deihl and I made that point in our 2009 White Paper, “Building from Content to Community: [Re]Thinking the Transition to Online Teaching and Learning.”  Kelly’s verbs of accessing, flowing, filtering, interacting, and questioning all weave into this threshold concept as well.

Edtech has definitely become a standard practice globally.  This is evident in our Twitter discussions at #EDU6323 and #EDU6333 where Masters students in Northeastern’s program share their realities and hopes concerning edtech.  In this standard practice, one can see Kelly’s verbs of becoming, cognifying, screening, sharing and remixing.  I like Adam’s note that:

“In essence, the saturation of technology use in higher education allows for more individualized approaches to educating all students.”

Adam’s final threshold places pedagogy before technology…and suggests that experimentation and play are worthy endeavors for education.  I agree, and have certainly attempted to embed a certain degree of playfulness in all my courses. Cognifying, filtering, and questioning all have pedagogical applications.

I have also attempted to embed a certain degree of optimism in my teaching as well.  I like Elsie’s image of “Threshold” at the top of this post…as it suggests moving from the darkness into the light.  That is a threshold worth crossing!

{Graphics: Elsie Godwin, Viking Press}

Will AI Do Improv?

There has been a lot on the news lately about artificial intelligence and how it is impacting the future.  Already there are advice posts regarding how AI can enhance education, such as “7 Ways Artificial Intelligence Will Change Higher Education” or “Could Online Tutors and Artificial Intelligence be the Future of Teaching?”.

Yet, this morning as I was driving and listening to Fred Childs on NPR, something his guest said resonated with me.  A pianist noted that even though songs have very clear “rules” in the form of sheet music, whenever he plays a piece, there is improv, because how he plays depends on who he is playing with and what the mood of the audience is.

This idea of improv reminded me of an unexpected flow on Twitter this week in my Northeastern University class on Social Media at #EDU6333.  The current class is a little different than earlier classes I have taught, in that – feeding off each other – they love to add GIFs to their tweets.  Whereas this might have happened infrequently in past classes, it happens every day in the current class.  And I would suggest “feeding off each other” is simply another definition for improv.

Wednesday night, I was grading papers and watching the hashtag feed when the following began happening (I added a few earlier ones, but most posted between 7:45-9:15pm):

Granted, this was only a fifth of the students in the class…though others the next day lamented missing the exchange.  But this is engagement…and dare I say it

It reminds me of the improv associated with teaching…whether K-12 or higher education.  This week we explored constructivist learning and TPACK…yet the dialogue on Twitter went in lots of directions.

We are not at the point yet where AI is a threat to replacing teaching.  After all, scientist last year made a teen robot…and it got depressed.  We have not yet reached the point where machines can empathize with us…though in some ways they are now thinking in ways we no longer understandWith the massive data crunching afforded by the cloud, artificial intelligence may develop new ways to improv in the future.  If anything, we are approaching the time when it will be a natural enhancement to good teaching.  But just as good pianists improv when playing a standard set of sheet music, both teachers and students need to improv when learning together…which is what constructivism is all about!

Only Been One Decade

Freidman bookI loved the second chapter of Tom Friedman’s new book, Thank You For Being Late: An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations.  The chapter title is

“What the Hell Happened in 2007?”

Good question.  It has only been a decade since 2007, and given that I joined the VCU Center for Teaching Excellence in late 2006, it sort of marked my start in faculty development.

Friedman noted how in a short period right around 2007, the following occurred:

  • The iPhone was introduced
  • Facebook opened up to non-college users
  • Google bought YouTube and launched Android
  • Amazon released Kindle
  • Michael Dell returned to Dell to run the company (again)
  • Intel added non-silicon materials to chips, which helped Moore’s Law to continue
  • The beginning of an exponential rise in green energy – solar, wind, and biofuels
  • The cost of DNA sequencing began dropping to rates anyone could use

Friedman noted that he first began writing a book about how technology was driving the world…and the world’s economy… back in 2004, which became The World is Flat.  He updated the book in 2006 and issued version 3.0 in 2007, at which point he stopped thinking about it.  I noted in previous posts that this book was very impactful to me personally.  In fact, my presentation during my interview for a job at the VCU CTE was on how Friedman’s 10 flatteners were changing our view of what it meant to teach.  A version I loaded into Slideshare a year later has now been viewed over 18,000 times, which is just one more example of how the world of teaching has changed!

Yet, in 2010, Friedman picked up his first edition and scanned the index, noticing that Facebook was not in it.  Twitter was not in it.  Big data was not in it.  Skype, LinkedIn, 4G…none showed up in his book about how the internet had changed the world.  That was when he realized the extent to which these changes were indeed accelerating.

As I think back on this last decade and my evolution within the VCU CTE … and later on to Northeastern’s Center for the Advancement of Teaching and Learning through Research (CATLR), I realize how fortunate I have been to have had the opportunity to play at precisely that inflection point in history when our concept about teaching and learning in a digital world changed.  I also got to play in a wonderful team led by Jeffrey Nugent, with Bud Deihl playing alongside.  2007 marked my first year as a learning specialist at the CTE, and during that year, Koehler and Mishra published their first paper on TPACK – Technological, Pedagogical and Content Knowledge, which shaped much of my work with faculty.  We began paying attention to work Stephen Downes and George Siemens were doing around the concept of connectivism, as well as the first MOOCs.  I sent my first tweet …even misspelling it as “twit” … in January 2008.

I also started this blog in January 2008.  Three hundred-seventy-five posts later…here we are…

It has only been one decade!

Friedman ends the second chapter noting that the rate of technological change has increased for the first time above the rate at which humans adapt.  He suggests that we have to now enhance our ability to adapt…which will lead to the next series of chapters.

This need to enhance our adaptability as we deal with the constant acceleration of technology, globalization, and climate change was again on my mind as I continued exploring the 2017 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, which looked at the challenges ahead for businesses and HR professionals. Over the past seven posts, I have been looking at it from a faculty development perspective.  The report is based on analysis of a survey of more than 10,400 business and HR leaders globally, and noted ten trends.  I discussed the fifth trend yesterday.

The sixth and seventh trends involved Digital HR and People Analytics, which are not only closely related…but tie in nicely to the accelerating technological changes of the past decade.

The report noted that HR now is dealing with a digital workforce, a digital workplace, and so must be digital as well.  The tone has shifted from “doing digital” to “being digital.”  Companies are shifting from rigid place-bound organizations to networks of networks.  Processes are expected to be more transparent, and new tools are needed.  “Standard” HR practices are becoming anything but standard as organizations fluidly shift in order to optimize productivity, engagement, teamwork, and career growth.  Analytics are now being mined to help drive performance.

The concept of being digital aligns with faculty development as well.  In a conversation this past week with a colleague, she noted that online teaching is no longer seen as an add-on…that being digital is part of teaching today.  We lag behind corporate America when it comes to using analytics…but that is changing as well.  One only need look at the sales pitches by companies for the various LMSs to see how analytics are now in the lexicon of education.

If change is indeed accelerating, one wonders what the next decade will bring.  I plan to shift the textbook for my Creighton Leadership and Technology course from Dave Weinberger’s Too Big to Know to Kevin Kelly’s The Inevitable, but I can see that by Spring 2018 when I next teach this course, Friedman’s book may also be part of the course.

Maybe that is inevitable…

{Graphics: Deloitte Press}

 

Social Media and Education Redux

At Northeastern University, I teach a graduate course on Social Media and Education – EDU 6333.  I have been teaching it for two years, and it is fascinating to work and learn with (relatively) younger Masters students on this topic.

The course is 12 weeks in length and flows like this, shifting between tools and processes:

Course Map

Our Twitter hashtag is #EDU6333.  The course runs in Northeastern’s Blackboard .. but in this Fall’s course for the third week on Communication, we shifted and conducted our weekly discussions in a private Facebook group.  It was interesting to hear some of my students’ perspectives about this shift – viewing communication within social media versus within Blackboard:

…I would have to agree with you that in many courses the discussion boards have been a forced post/response system where students post their required responses and then move on to the next week. I always put significant thought into what I am posting in both initial posts and responses but there rarely seems to be an actual back and forth conversation between classmates. I have to say that in this courses Twitter and Facebook seems to facilitate a genuine conversation, largely because of the notifications of responses in my opinion.

…With this being my 8th class on Blackboard, I have become use to it, but it is not intuitive and I use it because I have to. Not because I want to.

…In previous courses, I found myself completing the baseline of our expectations and not going above and beyond. With the ease and simplicity of using Twitter and Facebook on my phone, I find myself accessing course information a lot more, and I find myself a lot more engaged in the course, time wise and frequency wise!

…Most of us have gotten used to almost instant satisfaction with our social media, in that we are able to search for and view whatever pops into our mind in a matter of seconds. Blackboard would be wise to incorporate tools that allow users to operate more fluidly and with ease, instead of forcing us to click and click, searching for simple information.

…I think Blackboard would do well to infuse various components of popular social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, into their academic-based platform. Increased accessibility by cell phone and an insta-chat feature should be at the top of their list. These additions would facilitate higher levels of communication amongst instructors and students, as well as encourage contact with class-related content.

…Blackboard compared to Facebook as a discussion platform is similar to comparing penny farthing bikes to cars in regards to transportation. Blackboard is clunky, cumbersome and crude. More often than not, I type up my responses on google docs and then copy and paste them into Blackboard. Even simple tasks such as hyperlinking are using outdated code, requiring it to take a much longer time than is truly necessary. Additionally, consider the image I posted below. It took me only a few short seconds to type the term into my open search bar, find an image, copy it, and paste it below. In Blackboard, I need to find the image, download it, and re-upload it back in order to incorporate it.

…social media can enhance interactions with instructors and peers. Discussion boards do not achieve these goals. They are in my o experience contrived don’t emulate in class discussion nor do they take advantage of existing platforms today’s students use to communicate. In most (not all) online classes I’ve taken faculty do not participate on the discussion board, virtually eliminating all informal faculty and student communication. They are used more as formal assessment like a short paper.

…I have taken over 60 online courses at the college level, and I find myself more engaged in this course than any of the others because of the frequency and conversational format of communication that Twitter and Facebook allow. I really wish other instructors gave us these opportunities to converse more freely!

Now, not all students necessarily were in favor of social media as a learning platform:

…the lack of connectedness and immediacy to Blackboard can be seen as one of its strengths because there are not the same kinds of distractions you would have with Facebook or Twitter. In this sense, CMS platforms create a separation between learning and everyday life which might be beneficial. This is especially important for adult learners who might be working full time or have a family to take care of and can’t feel connected all the time.

…I would strongly prefer to NOT have my classes be based on Facebook compared to Blackboard. I am very diligent about deadlines, so I am not one of the students who needs constant reminders. Another downside for me is that when I come on Facebook, I just want to scroll through some friends and family, watch some funny cat videos, and generally have fun with it. It is good for winding down. If all of my classes notified me each time something was posted on the Facebook page, I would get jolted back into school mentality even during a time I have set aside for not school work, which bothers me.

…I enjoy having a Twitter to communicate with classmates, the conversation flows naturally and quickly between classmates (more like a “real” conversation). On the contrary, it is also nice to have a home base where the material lives for a course such as blackboard. Facebook is a great method of communication but I can also see how it could be disruptive for completing course work (i.e getting notifications on the picture you posted 5 hours ago while trying to complete a discussion post for your course).

…The BB can be utilized as a tool for means of communication among peers and instructors but similar to any social media outlet this varies from person to person and instructor to instructor.

A side conversation this week began as students discussed meeting their K12 or undergraduate students “where they were.”  Rather than Twitter and Facebook that is being used in our course, they suggested that their students were elsewhere:

…I offered Facebook or email; both were met with a chuckle. High schoolers have moved on from Facebook. We discussed Instagram, Snap Chat and Twitter as possible option and settled on Twitter. I’m sure most them have Facebook, but just do not use it much in their daily social online interactions.

…my middle schoolers said they would prefer instagram, snapchat and imessaging as methods of communication, in that order.

…I just sent a Facebook message to my best friend’s son, who is 17. I will say it only took him 30 seconds to respond. He tells me that high school kids have moved to Instagram and Twitter because Facebook is for old people

…I’ve had similar conversations with my 7th grade students. They are all about Instagram and SnapChat now because the pictures are most appealing to them and there is still a text chat feature on both for two-way communication.

To see a possible more up-to-date use of social media in education, I was exploring a class at Virginia Commonwealth University earlier in the week being taught by Jason Coats, Bonnie Boaz and Ryan Cales.  They have a common WordPress site for their three sections of UNIV 200.  They are using Slack for discussions, Flipgrid for weekly video reflections, and blogs for individual assignments.  Cool!  Is this how classes are evolving?

Last week, Jane Hart published her latest list of Top Tools for Learning…expanded this year to the Top 200.  For the first time in 7 years, Twitter is no longer Number One (though it is still a very healthy Number Three).  Facebook is Number 6.  But Slack is Number 20, up 63 places from last year.  If I counted right, there are 78 new tools on this year’s list (of course, it is an expanded list).  And not all meet the definition of “social media” … but many do.

So I am wondering – how would I redesign my Social Media and Education course in a School of Education Masters … taking in to consideration all these new opportunities!  How would you?

I would be interested in your thoughts…

And here is the latest Top Tools list:

 

 

 

Another Tools Post

Wow!  It has been almost 5 months since I last posted.  It is not for lack of content, but the past 5 months have been busy.  My wife and I moved to Virginia, I taught 4 courses online, and we traveled to New England to see the grandkids twice.  So blogging dropped in priority…who knew that retirement would be so tiring!

In July 2015, I posted on my top tools for learning in response to Jane Hart‘s annual call for top tools.  At the time, I noted the following tools (and how they had changed over the years):

2015tools3

2016 marks the 10th anniversary of Jane Hart’s wonderful Top 100 Tools list.  As Jane noted in this year’s call for votes:

“Due to the fact that the same tools have dominated the list in recent years, for 2016 the list will be extended to contain 200 tools so that more tools can be mentioned to create the Top 200 Tools for Learning 2016

Additionally, in order to understand how these tools are being used in different contexts, three sub-lists will also be generated:

  1. Top 100 Tools for Education – for use in schools, colleges, universities, adult ed
  2. Top 100 Tools for Workplace Learning – for use in training, for performance support, social collaboration, etc
  3. Top 100 Tools for Personal & Professional Learning – for self-organised learning”

That is exciting!

This past year, I retired from faculty development, relocated to Virginia, and engaged more fully in online teaching.  So, my tools have shifted.  Here are my top ten tools for this year (in Category One):

2016tools.

I teach for both Northeastern University and Creighton University.  That means two different LMSs (Blackboard and Canvas), but the LMS does not make my top ten…and I would be comfortable teaching in any (or none).  I introduce my students to blogging and social media, so Twitter, Tweetdeck, Diigo, WordPress, and Facebook are all actively used in my instruction (and in work submitted by my students).  I use Feedly and Netvibes to organize student tweets and blogs.  Camtasia and Snagit are used weekly to create multimedia for my classes.  I also instruct my students on curating their own content, and a favorite of my students this past year has been Pinterest.

If I was doing my top 20, some other tools that I use with my students would  be (in no particular order):

  • Storify
  • Piktochart
  • Hootsuite
  • VoiceThread
  • Blogger
  • Learnist
  • Pearltree
  • ScoopIt
  • YouTube
  • iPad

I list these because they surface as students curate and share content.

Thanks, Jane, for a remarkable 10 year journey.  Looking forward to the next decade!

{…and I plan to start blogging again…I have things to share and thoughts on which to reflect…}

 

 

The Pedagogy of Screening

My students in EDU6323 had a blast last week.  The focus was on screencasting, and for many, it was the first time they had created and shared a screencast.  Based on comments, I suspect it now will not be the last time.  Several have already begun incorporating short screencasts into their classrooms or work settings.

To set the stage for this week, I shared Kevin Kelly‘s 2011 talk at NExTWORK:

Kelly, senior editor at Wired magazine, noted that the web has evolved in unexpected ways…and one of them is “screening.”  Kelly added five other verbs to demonstrate how the web is evolving:

  • Screening
  • Interacting
  • Sharing
  • Flowing (Streaming)
  • Accessing (as opposed to Owning)
  • Generating

In the five years since Kelly prognosticated the future of the web, much of his insight has proven true.  Screencasts fits several of these trends.  Screen recording software started being used as early as the mid 1990’s, but the term screencasting was popularized around the same time as podcasting and became a common term for the production of digital recordings of computer screen output accompanied by audio narration. John Udell is largely credited with the development of the screencast as a medium for instruction. His “Heavy metal Umlaut” screencast demonstrating how Wikipedia articles evolve has become a cult classic among screencasters.

This concept of screening is illustrated in Corning’s look to the future in Day Made of Glass Part 1 and Part 2.  Kecie added to this with this tweet:

By the way, I refound this tweet by using twXplorer from Knight Lab.  Searching for “edu6323”, it collated all the links shared this past week by my class in one place.  Nice!

Some of the richest discussions concerned the pedagogy behind screencasts.  Students shared a video by Salman Khan discussing how screencasts can be an effective way to share ideas, deliver content, and obtain student feedback.  Another noted:

“…For more than a century people have been taking pictures, making movies, and distributing their creative efforts to viewers. Today’s camera technology enables students to do the same in the classroom, and in so doing, learn not only academic subject matter but also digital camera technology, which is educationally valuable. Here is a great article about Film can have a leading role in education.”

There was some excellent transfer from Laurie Poklop’s course on How People Learn.  Mayer’s Multimedia Principles came up from more than one student.

“…I think you are absolutely on to something by connecting the principles of embodiment and personalization in educational multimedia espoused by Mayer (2014) to the value of human connection in the learning process. While the use of a conversational tone may simply reduce extraneous cognitive load that may occur from attempting to “decode” academic language, I also think that we are hard-wired to respond to human faces and voices, helping us focus our attention in such situations, as our brains are apt to see patterns in terms of human faces in otherwise random patterns (Svoboda, 2007). Additionally, Mayer (2014) interestingly points out that having a static image of a speaker during a multimedia presentation actually does not help learning (p. 9). It is necessary to not only be aware of a human origin for narration, but also it is important to be able to see them behaving in a familiar, naturalistic manner…”

The self-pacing and control aspect of screencasts came up repeatedly.  One noted: “…I actually stumbled upon a cool study here when looking for a site to share on Diigo that talks about the pros and cons of screencasting as a self-pacing tool…”

Another conversation revolved around the best length for a screencast.  One student shared an article that suggested a two-minute video with one concept is better than a four minute video with two concepts.  Others suggested around 6 minutes.  TechSmith, maker of SnagIt and Camtasia, asked on Twitter and got a range of responses.  Interestingly, the student created screencasts went from under 2 minutes to nearly 20, on the subject of “Favorite Vacation Spot.”

So a good exploration of screencasting.  Next week, EDU6323 explores the curation of media, using a variety of tools.

 

Lesson in Explicitness or Lack Thereof

head slapEver developed one of those killer assignments that you know would be dynamite … and then you review the graduate student submissions and wonder – How could they have missed that!?!?

Yep!  It happened to me this week.  It happened ironically during a synthesis assignment on attention, memory and thinking, and it pointed out to me (again) how critical being explicit is in online learning (or any learning).

Let me provide some context.

For the past four weeks, my EDU 6323 class on Technology as a Medium for Learning has been reading the chapters on attention, memory and thinking in Michelle Miller’s Minds Online: Teaching Effectively With Technology.  I had previously blogged about her chapters last year – see my posts on Attention, Memory, and Thinking.  These chapters provided background as we explored digital tools for tagging, aggregating, social networking, and collaborating.

During those same four weeks, the students began using a group page in Diigo, purposefully curating resources around the topics of attention, memory and thinking.  They collectively shared over ninety articles, both from scholarly sources as well as mainstream media.  See below for some examples.

The assignment this week:

Over the past weeks, we have explored a number of Web 2.0 technologies (and we have a few to go).

EDU6323coursemap .

We have also been reading Miller’s book Minds Online. Chapters 4-6 focus on key cognitive attributes of attention, memory and thinking.  Also, we have been collectively gathering web resources on these topics in our Diigo Group page.

During this week, you will submit a 2-5 page double-spaced paper, synthesizing the lessons you take from these chapters and resources, and discussing specific ways some of the technologies we have discussed could be used to improve your teaching and student learning.  You will bring highlights of your thinking into this week’s discussion to share with your classmates.  The focus this week is on “collaboration” – so let’s learn from each other!

I thought it self-evident that the “collectively gathered web resources” in Diigo would inform their papers.  But that was not explicitedly stated in the assignment nor the rubric.

One student did, weaving in to his analysis three different articles that other classmates had saved in Diigo.  Four others used one or two of their own resources that they had added to the Diigo group page, but none from their classmates.  Half of the class had Miller’s book as their only resource, with no mention of the curated resources.

I place the “blame” (if that is the right word) squarely on my shoulders.  I did not make my expectations explicit and I did not provide enough scaffolding.  For the past three weeks, I have reminded students to pay attention to Miller’s chapters, as they would be using them as a lens for their upcoming paper.  In doing so, I focused their attention strictly on the book…and failed to highlight the importance of the other sources they were dutifully collecting.

In general, the papers were fine.  They summarized Miller’s key points and then discussed possible applications to their own teaching situations.  I just assumed that they would connect the dots between (1) the activity of gathering resources on attention, memory, and thinking and (2) the paper they were writing on applying the lessons to their own teaching situation.  That connection was crystal clear to me … but alluded 93% of my class.

My fault!

This is my first time teaching EDU 6323.  Next time, I will spend more time connecting the dots – and making explicit my expectations.

And just to share some of the good work the class did curating resources, here is a sampling:

I would welcome any suggestions you might have on making lessons more explicit.  Maybe I watch too much NCIS – but a head slap is what I feel I need right now!

headslap2

{Graphics: Chris Sabo, Watwood EDU6323 Course Graphic, Patricia Goldbach}

The Social Side of Social Bookmarking

DiigoIn EDU6323 this week, my students explored social bookmarking.  As one student noted in her weekly reflection – “Holy Moly – How Did I Not Know About This?”  Her observation matched about 90% of my class…which is interesting given that social bookmarking has been around for nearly a decade.  In my mind, this in some ways simply demonstrates that our past educational system was built on the individual, which resulted in people who do not naturally share or collaborate in digital ways.  The changing landscape of the digital world in the past decade has resulted in processes that are open, social and participatory…but that does not mean that those educated in earlier days automatically adopt these practices.  Within our class discussion forum, we had some interesting discussion around digital literacy and skill building.  Many suggested that they were rethinking fundamentals – that skills such as social bookmarking were critical skills that should be integrated in K-12 education rather than waiting until higher education.  Several stated that they were immediately discussing this practice with their students.  Others likewise were sharing the practice with their co-workers.

To help demonstrate the power of social bookmarking, we used Diigo to collaboratively collect articles associated with three myths discussed by Michelle Miller in her third chapter of Minds Online.  Michelle debunked three common myths involving digital technology – that use of technology is rewiring our brains, that kids are digital natives, and that the use of social media is destroying relationships.  Student reflections noted that many of these myths resonated with them, and that they were frankly surprised to find that there was little research substantiating these beliefs.  They collected a nice variety of articles that supported Miller’s view, and in the process illustrated how collectively we can quickly amass an excellent resource.

In thinking deeper about digital literacy, they reflected on how they and their colleagues tended to reject change.  In working with faculty over the past decade, I and others have seen this repeatedly.  However, after initially rejecting change, we have also seen faculty come back, retry something, and ultimately embrace it – whether we are talking about technology or new teaching practices.

In reflecting and discussing the social side of social bookmarking, several students saw potential opportunities for collaboration, but they also worried about collaborative approaches in a world still focused on individuals.  If a group collaboratively built something, how does one grade individual effort?  Others worried that students might violate copyright if they were allowed to freely share content.

Regarding grades, I spent part of the 1980s involved with the quality movement, known then as Total Quality Management.  One of the guiding lights of TQM was Edwards Deming, who passed away in 1993.  Deming was chiefly responsible for the rebirth of Japan following World War II, in which the quality of products (Sony, Toyota, etc) far exceeded USA products – at least until American companies started listening to Deming.

One of Deming’s beliefs was that you could pick the top 5% and bottom 5% of effort in any project, but that it was meaningless to spend time trying to quantify the middle 90%.  As such, he felt that in education, individual grades tended to be meaningless.

That was 30 years ago!  With the new affordances of digital technology – and the opportunities associated with collaborative learning, perhaps a new grading scheme is needed!  Would teachers and faculty be ready for such a radical notion?

As to remixed copyright, I shared Larry Lessig’s TED Talk.  Another radical notion?

I really enjoy our journey through digital technology, which several students describe as “eye-opening”!  Next week, we move into aggregating content.  I hope more radical notions are uncovered!

{Graphics: Marc Campman, Educause}

Deeper Searches

google-search-resultsIn the third week of EDU 6323, my students explored web searches.  I had them read the second chapter of Michelle Miller’s Minds Online, Nicholas Carr’s Is Google Making Us Stupid, Eszter Hargittai and colleagues’ Trust Online, and Clive Thompson’s Why Kids Can’t Search.  I also covered advanced search techniques on Google as well as the use of WhoIs and the Wayback Machine.

As an exercise for the week, my students were tasked with picking a 2016 Presidential candidate … and then first searching using Google to determine the “Super Pac” that is backing that candidate … and then trying the same search using Bing and DuckDuckGo to see if they got the same results.  One of my Asian-American students added Baidu, which was rather interesting!  They then were to explore more deeply the website for the SuperPac they had chosen to see if they could find who registered and authored that website. Using the Wayback Machine, they explored how long has the website had been around.

This was the first time I have tried this particular activity in one of my online classes, and I was impressed with the analysis of my students.  First, they learned a lot about SuperPacs, One of the go to websites was OpenSecrets.Org – which they in turn analyzed for validity.  Several were surprised to find SuperPacs supporting Bernie Sanders (though this apparently was not reciprocated).  Several not only found the founder of certain SuperPacs, but then dug deeper into data about this person and how that might influence how the SuperPac was being used.

I found the reflections around personal searches most interesting.  As one student noted, “…everyday web searching is superficial compared to the possibilities.”

An interesting quote from one student:

“At this point I took a pause to think about the article “Is Google making us Stupid?”  because in just under half an hour I had learned something very significant about political campaigns in this country, I had read (not skimmed)  several articles, and I certainly felt wiser and more informed.  When I first read the article, before doing this search exercise, I was in agreement with the author– afraid of my thought processes becoming like an algorithm. But last night, when I went to go read a new book that I have,  I noticed something interesting. In order to read a book, I need to take my body off of high alert. It may seem like we are passively searching the Internet, sitting on our butts on the sofa,  but I noticed that my breathing was different,  my calmness level was different, and even the way I felt about reading was different when I was holding a physical book in my hand versus being online.”

Most noted they had used Google without much thought, and appreciated the new awareness of both alternatives as well as search shortcuts within Google.  Google, Bing, and DuckDuckGo tended to return similar sites, but the look and feel was different.  All seemed to return news stories ahead of the SuperPacs themselves, which helped reinforce the concept of PageRank.  Interestingly, Baidu returned similar sites, but the taglines in some cases were several years older. Most of my students had not heard of the Wayback Machine or WhoIs before and liked the ability to better understand the history of a website.  Several noted that they could now as parents help their children more critically search!  They seemed to agree that teaching search skills is a digital literacy that needs to start in K-12 and be reinforced in higher education.

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Most disagreed with Carr’s viewpoint on Google making us stupid, though his point about skimming over deep reading seemed to resonate.  Most noted that Google is a tool that can make us more efficient…or lead to superficial search.  As one student noted, a hammer can build or tear down.  It is not the tool but the use that counts.  One student suggested that mainstream media and its soundbite mentality had more to do with skimming than any website.

Miller brought up the use of technology to mitigate against cheating in online classes in her second chapter, and that led several of my students to discuss cheating in a digital age.  Most seemed to think that focusing on cheating only in online courses missed the broader point.  Several also suggested that deeper engagement by students could lead to less problems with academic integrity.

So, I was very pleased with how this week’s thought exercise worked.  Next week, my students will begin using Diigo and explore the concept of tagging.

{Graphic: Geomarketing}

First Week in EDU6323

It has been awhile since I blogged…but as I move into retirement from faculty development and spend more time teaching adjunct, my blog offers a place to reflect on my online teaching.

I am currently teaching a graduate course for Northeastern University – Technology as a Medium for Learning (EDU6323).  I was asked to completely redesign this course to add more learning science to the course flow.  As the course objectives aligned with a course Jeff Nugent developed several years ago, I took the basic flow from Jeff’s course, but added Michelle Miller’s book as the course textbook, so that we would examine the various digital technologies through the cognitive lens of Attention, Memory, Thinking and Multimedia.

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To start the course off, the students read Mike Wesch‘s From Knowledgable to Knowledge-able, The Next Generation Digital Learning Environment, and an interview by Mary Grush on moving from course management to course networking, all within the context of learning in a networked environment.  They also viewed the Networked Society video:

The students are tweeting to hashtag #EDU6323 weekly, as well as analyzing the readings and discussing their insights in our Blackboard discussion board.  My students span the country.

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Some are in K-12 as teachers or coaches, some are in community colleges, and some are in higher education administration or educational technology. Yet it was interesting how these readings and video in some ways overwhelmed my students.  While living in it, they had not reflected before on the pace and magnitude of change occurring in learning environments.  Some questioned who was ahead in dealing with this change – higher education or K-12?  There was some discussion on the potential gap that can exist between haves and have-nots, but also a recognition that in some ways, developing countries now have access to learning – leading to the question as to whether it is the middle that is being squeezed.

What is gratifying is that my students appear focused on student learning, not tools and technology.  There was discussion as to whether more or less technology in the classroom was the answer, but they kept coming back to the affordances technology “could” give for learning.  One student summarized:

“E-learning empowers the individual by putting information in the hands of everyone, not just the elite.  It affords everyone, even those in the remotest of regions and in the most un-institutional places, the invaluable advantage of learning, of being both the holder and creator of knowledge.”

Given that I have several students in health care education, there was some push-back on Mike’s article.  These students teach in programs that lead to students taking national certification exams, so “teaching to the test” is a bit of the norm.  We had some good discussion in both Twitter and Blackboard around assessment of learning.  As one student noted:

“With all of the personalization and every aspect being chosen for the learner (ie review questions, etc), how does this bolster dedication, motivation, perseverance, and most of all organizational skills?”

Some questioned whether the concept of “learning management systems” is an outdated concept.  We will dig deeper into this in a few weeks.  There was comfort in the structure that LMS‘s provide, but recognition that they also limited both teaching and learning.  Some noted that this comfort has more to do with teachers than students, and that fear of change may keep teachers from experimenting.

It was nice to see the concept of “free” surface in the first week.  There are many free apps and softwares available for teaching and learning – but there are “costs” associated with the selection of these free apps, particularly when it comes to time for teachers to tinker and play.

Please join us at the Twitter hashtag #EDU6323 in the coming ten weeks as we explore digital technologies for learning.  Next week, my students will be exploring educational blogs and trying to answer the two questions – Should students blog? and Should teachers blog?

How would you answer that question?